Introduction: Setsuko Hara at St Andrews, and now in Frames

By Dina Iordanova

The essays in this section, dedicated to Japan’s most admired and universally adored actress, Setsuko Hara (1920-2015) were first presented as part of the IGCCC workshop on 5 February 2018, dedicated to commemorating her amazing life and oeuvre. Her presence in the films of Yasujirō Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, Mikio Naruse and many others made Hara one of the most memorable faces in the history of cinema at large, even if she withdrew from acting in her early 40s and never appeared in film after 1962.
We screened one of Hara’s earliest films, the German-Japanese co-production THE NEW EARTH (a.k.a. The Daughter of the Samurai/Atarashiki Tsuchi/新しき土) 1937, directed by Arnold Frank and Mansaku Itami – in the version directed by Frank. Even though this was not her first role, Hara is only 17 years old when she appeared in the film, in a period that was marked by substantial propagandistic and political upheavals. In the presentations that followed, we heard from historian Konrad Lawson (St Andrews), who gave a fascinating contextualisation of the complex period in which Hara started her career. Other contributors included our colleague Philippa Lovatt (St Andrews), Bruce Chu (Communication University of China), and Alex Zahlten (Harvard University).

Frames is privileged to present three of the essays that were created specifically as part of Hara’s commemoration. Joel Neville Anderson’s (Rochester/Japan Cuts) video essay gives a deeply personal heartfelt overview of her presence in cinema. This is followed by Jennifer Coates (Kyoto U./University of East Anglia) illustrated essay on Hara’s image in gossip media and by Alastair Phillips’s (Warwick) finely crafted exploration of space and transition in Hara’s films.
This was IGCCC’s first workshop to celebrate the work of a female artist, part of our series of events that mark the oeuvre of cineastes that have passed away in recent years. Other such events were dedicated to Abbas Kiarostami, Andrzej Wajda, Om Puri, and Wu Tianming.

Dina Iordanova, Director of the Institute of Global Cinema and Creative Cultures